Sodexo USA Careers
May 2013, Issue 35
Your View into a World Leader of Quality of Life Services
Are Cover Letters Dead?
By Trish Freshwater, Senior Communications Manager

The following was originally published on the Student Branding Blog, where students can find a wealth of information about preparing for their future career. Click here to read the original article.

If you've applied for a job online recently, you may have noticed that the process is driven by a series of screens that request you to create a profile in the company's online career center and upload your resume. Next, you may be asked a few questions about your qualifications for the job. But, nowhere was there a place to upload the cover letter that you spent hours writing and perfecting. What to do?

In today's digital recruiting world, many recruiters rely on reviewing your resume and looking for specific references to your experience, or keywords, which indicate if you meet the primary qualifications for the job. If you're a match, you will be offered an initial phone interview where the recruiter can learn more about your background and skills, and then decide if you will move on to an interview with the hiring manager. But a cover letter never really comes into the process. So, do you still need one?

Yes. You do need a cover letter – but not in the traditional way cover letters have been considered as the document that gets your foot in the door.

Why are cover letters still important?

  • If you're applying to a smaller company and your application is sent directly to a hiring manager rather than a recruiter, your cover letter will be an important factor in helping you stand apart from other applicants. However, your cover letter may be an e-mail with your resume attached, rather than a printed letter.
  • Some companies do provide an opportunity for you to upload a cover letter in a specific step of the online application process. You need to be prepared.
  • For those companies that do not allow you to upload a cover letter in the application process, it's important to know that while the cover letter may not be the document that secures your interview, it can be a valuable document for a hiring manager who wants to learn more about you ahead of an interview.

For online applications, candidates are often provided an opportunity to upload "supporting" or "additional" documents. This is a great place to upload your cover letter and have it attached to your profile. Also, if you're selected for a phone interview with a recruiter, you can ask the recruiter if the hiring manager would be interested in a cover letter and indicate that you can provide one. (Hint: Have it ready to go!)

Drafting a Great Cover Letter

Cover letters are an opportunity for you to "sell" yourself in a way that explains why you are the best candidate for a specific job or discuss a specific aspect of your career in more depth than possible on your resume.

However, today, brevity is the soul of wit. Many experts suggest that you think of your cover letter more in terms of a cover "e-mail" and keep it short – a maximum of three paragraphs with an introduction, a paragraph describing why you're the best fit, and a summary/closing.

Here are some other quick tips:

  • Cover letters should be personalized and tailored for each job. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to cover letters.
  • Find a way to show that you have researched the company and the job, and convey an understanding of why you are the best candidate for the position.
  • Include a targeted paragraph of about three sentences that provides a high-level view of your experience that entices the reader to look at your resume for more details.

Cover letters may be changing from the page-long monoliths written 10+ years ago, but there is still value in presenting why you're the best qualified candidate for the job through a written letter. Happy writing!

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Editor: Trish Freshwater,
Senior Communications Manager